Melanie Schoeniger is a photo-based artist from Germany. Inspired by the world’s rainforests and coral reefs, she aims to shine a light on the wonder of life. “I want to evoke a deep connection with nature and have a wish to protect and preserve it for future generations.“ A Photolucida Critical Mass 2022 finalist, her award-winning work will next be exhibited at FotoNostrum, Barcelona from 13-30 October.
I am a visual artist from Germany. Art is my way of detangling my thoughts, like Joseph Campbell once wrote. It is my living laboratory where I test all that I have studied, all my ideas and theories, but in a physical way. Applied intellectual and aesthetic research. I paint mostly with light.
I create photo based artworks in a wide range. From lens-based work to photograms, from digitally collaging to manufacturing cyanotypes.
I look for the exceptional in the ordinary and I try to make my subjective view of reality visible. I love to discover new techniques, to indulge in new ideas and to challenge myself with playful experiments.
How does the theme ‘Biosphere’ play a role in your work?
The world is our biosphere, and even though we are dependent on it, we destroy it.
This is almost suicidal. I really do not understand this discrepancy in knowing and acting, this cognitive dissonance.
Biodiversity is where my heart thrives, either above or under water, in the jungle and in coral reefs. I did my degrees for school graduation in biology and I traveled the world and fell even more in love. As soon as I new I would go to Australia with the first owned money from my first job, I took diving lessons in Germany, to make sure I could discover the Great Barrier Reef. And I did and it was an imprinting experience.
I had a hard time finding my way from despair and climate grief into agency.
During lockdown I joined a book club of eco-conscious artists and we started with the book “all we can save“. This experience within the group in these times was so enriching and cathartic to me. This series, the octopus garden, was ignited by a conversation about the loss of coral reefs, that we will not be able to show its beauty to our primary school sons snorkeling there.
Wonderful books around that theme followed, like Robin Wall Kimmerer’s braiding sweetgrass and Joanna Macy’s Active Hope. And examining our relationship to the world is the main topic in my art.
This is my series description:
I started this series based on my sorrow about the almost inevitable loss of the coral reefs. The notion of not being able to protect this amazingly rich underwater jungle nor to share that wonder of life with future generations breaks my heart.
Playing around with some flowers in an underwater setting, I realized how they turned into stunning beings. I started dreaming a life-sustaining future imagining that plants contribute to a new form of underwater life.
That’s how I turned my grief into this ongoing art project.
I am still full of awe about this unfamiliar yet impressive beauty.
The title octopuses garden refers to the Beatles: Childhood memories of this song came up looking at my underwater geranium perennial which reminded me of tentacles.
One image reminds me of that moment within the never-ending story, where Bastian saves Phantasien and creates a whole new world and everything starts to grow from scratch. And I think about humanity acting like the nothingness in this book, erasing everything. I think about nature evolving like it always does. I think about our connection to the natural world and our urgently needed shift of consciousness, culture and myth that Joseph Campell described so brilliantly.